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2011 Ford Fiesta SES Review By Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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2011 Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta Specs, Comparisons and Reviews - Ford Buyers Guide

2011 Ford Fiesta SES
A City-suitable Hatchback

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Various automotive pundits, analysts and experts have often said that Americans don’t like hatchback cars. Maybe that was true at some point in the not-to-distant past, but given the evidence of all the minivans, SUVs and crossovers with big hatches that are on our roads, that view just might have changed.

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I spent a week driving a 2011 Ford Fiesta hatchback or 5-door, if you will. The Fiesta also comes in a 4-door sedan. However, take note that the 5-door hatch is 160.1 inches long and the 4-door sedan is 13.5 inches longer, at 173.6 inches. If you live in Chicago like I do, or one of America’s top 50 major cities, those 13.5 inches can very often be the difference between having a parking spot or not.

The Fiesta seats 2 very comfortably up front and 3 in the rear. At 67.8 inches wide, I noticed that if I did a good job at parallel parking…the law requires the vehicle to be no more that 12 inches from the curb…I really didn’t need to fold in the outside mirror since the Fiesta usually was the most narrow in a row of parked vehicles. It’s another nice city-friendly feature.

The front-wheel drive Fiesta is powered by a 120 HP 1.6 liter DOHC 4-cylinder. EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 city mpg and 37 highway mpg for the 5-speed manual transmission that I drove. I took a 100 mile road trip from Chicago to St. Joseph, MI to the Krasl Art Center Concours on the Bluff and had trip computer readings of 38-39 mpg on my expressway drive. With the 12 gallon fuel tank, around 450 miles of driving should be achievable.

Watch the 2011 Ford Fiesta promo video

The manual transmission is very smooth and light to shift and worked well in city driving. Hill start assist is available. Great to have if you live in San Francisco…it holds the brakes on for a couple seconds as you apply the throttle and let out the clutch. A Powershift six-speed automatic is available for those who prefer no left leg exercise. EPA estimates are better for the automatic achieving 29 city mpg and 40 highway mpg. MacPherson struts up front and twist beam axle in the rear handled big-city potholes quite well. Steering effort is light but with the right amount of feedback and makes for easy maneuvering on congested city streets, in parking garages and of course for the always challenging parallel parking job where you try to get it right the first time. A parallel park on the left side of a one-way street is always a little more challenging.

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Comfort and convenience abounds. Power door locks with remote keyless entry, power windows, power and heated outside mirrors with integrated blind-spot “spotter mirrors” along with the full array of safety equipment that we expect to be equipped today are offered. Push button start, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control and tire pressure monitoring are standard. My SES test car also had heated seats. Leather-trimmed seats are an option.

Another great feature is Ford’s Easyfuel Capless Filler for the fuel tank. Simply open the fuel filler door and insert the pump nozzle. No cap to twist off, no cap too loose. Saves on broken fingernails, ladies.

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Prices start at $13,995 for the sedan, offered in S, SE and SEL trim. The hatchback is offered in SE and SES trim priced from $16,295. My SES tester had a base price of $17,120 and a total MSRP of $18,590 with an optional comfort/up-grade package and shipping. SYNC voice-activated communication and entertainment is also a Fiesta feature. Whether it’s local radio, satellite radio or an MP3 player, Fiesta gives you all the choices for in-car entertainment.

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Ford has covered the bases in offering a broad color palette. From the conservative to the wild, like my tester’s Bright Magenta, there is a color for everyone. This leads to a strong point for the Fiesta: this car can fit into any household. Whether for the daily commute to work from the suburbs, or for a young family member to get around, or for the empty nester couple that needs occasional urban transport, the Fiesta is very versatile. My preference is the hatchback model since that wide-opening rear hatch is great to get a large parcel into the fold-down rear seat cargo area.

Warranty coverage is 3 year/36,000 miles bumper to bumper, 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain and 5 year/60,000 mile roadside assist. With a plethora of Ford dealers across the U.S, the ownership experience should be very convenient. I’m not a big fan of owning a vehicle and having the nearest dealer being a long distance away.

Fiesta: City-friendly and handles the highway too.

Watch the interview with Ford's team members talking about bringing the Fiesta to America

Larry Nutson